Photo by Bryce Duffy
It’s hard to believe it’s been almost a week since I was on the Salmo River Ranch with 15,000 of my best friends. Like most everyone, I’m consistently at a loss when it comes to describing the magic of Shambhala Music Festival, but I’ll start with getting there.
Nestled in the mountains, just across the U.S. border by the town of Salmo, B.C., is the Salmo River Ranch, proud home of Shambhala for the last 18 years. For many, the location may be a week’s drive away, or a day’s worth of flying, and there’s likely an unforgiving border crossing to boot. Yet, once in proximity, the dreamlike pilgrimage becomes reality. Backpackers line the road asking for tickets, excited volunteers direct traffic towards the barely-two-lane dirt road that enters the property, and once you start down that dusty path, everything you’ve heard starts to make sense. The allure of the mountains begins to sink in, cheeks crease as lips crack into a smile, and hearts begin to race knowing they’ve finally made it home. Welcome to Shambhala.
The festival proper takes place Friday to Sunday, but you’ve the option to arrive on Wednesday for $80 more, and for $40 you may arrive on Thursday to get down with the two-stage pre-party. Being my first year, and attending the festival solo, I thought showing up Wednesday afternoon would be just fine. After braving the 7 km dirt road entrance, I breached into the festival’s clearing to find myself steeped in all the fun and happiness that’s gone lost in the world.
While it would be damn near impossible to put my entire experience into words, here are 5 reasons why Shambhala is a serious contender for being the world’s best festival.